GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - The City of Gonzales, once crippled by a divided council, is making major strides.
Two councilmen known for igniting heated debates before the public are gone. The mayor replaced them with "ordinary citizens". The city has already started seeing changes.
It is hard to forget the back and forth that often times took center stage at Gonzales City Council meetings. It got so heated, it began to hurt the city's economic progress.
Then councilmen, Gary Lacombe and Timothy Vessel, and current councilman Terrance Irvin refused to approve zoning changes that would secure new business, police cars, and the city's budget.
Citizens had enough and called for Lacombe's and Vessel's removal. Their effort was a success. Two lifelong residents with no political background, David Guitreau and Barbara Duhe, stepped in as temporary replacements.
"It was terrible, terrible. I still don't know what the reason was behind it," Guitreau said of the fighting.
"It was disheartening for me to see that," Duhe added.
Guitreau and Duhe were able to help fellow council members secure a budget that included funding for new police cars.
"People in Gonzales, even though it's not a high crime city, they do believe in safety," Guitreau said.
The two have also helped to work on strategies to get big business interested in Gonzales again.
"We'd love to see business come in. People always need jobs, anything that could secure jobs for people would be a great help," Duhe said.
"The phones are ringing again. People are talking to us," Mayor Barney Arceneaux said.
The City of Gonzales is primed for economic development. Restaurants, retail, and industry are all possibilities. But Mayor Arceneaux said the council must first take care of some rezoning issues to make to make it a reality.
"There are two companies we reached out to and one of them is one of the ones that's going to come back and talk with us. We also have two or three other companies that have reached out as well and we feel certain we will land them," Arceneaux said.
While Arceneaux said it is too soon to divulge the details, he is confident the tables are turning and Gonzales will soon be open for business.
Neal Bourque, who is running unopposed, will replace Guitreau on Monday, February 23, 2015.
Derrick Coco, Harold Stewart, and Willie Robinson are running for the seat vacated by Vessel.
That election will be held Saturday, March 28, 2015.